Palmyra Colonnade Glimpses of the World

Things to do in Palmyra Syria

*I was fortunate enough to travel to Syria and see the country in 2008, three years before the war broke out. This homage to Syria is a reminder, a story about the country with immense cultural heritage, posted here with the wholehearted wish for peace to be restored and cities  rebuilt.

Things to do in Palmyra are primarily linked to the Palmyra Temple which no longer exists but also to the immense ancient Greek and Roman heritage.

Things to do in Palmyra

The plan of Palmyra shows an intriguing peculiarity: its principal axis (the Decumanus Maximus) was not perfectly straight, but rather „jogs“ a little. The monumental arch was built in the early 3rd century AD under Septimius Severus in order to disguise the misalignment of the first and the second section of the Great Colonnade.

Things to do in Palmyra
Roman gate next to the Baal Temple

The arch was unique in its genre, with the two lower arches facing respectively towards the Temple of Baal and the main boulevard of the Great Colonnade that cuts through Palmyra from east to west, 11 meters wide and more than one kilometer in length. The arch was richly decorated with motifs of acorns and oak leaves, palm trunks.

Construction of the road began in the 2nd century AD. It may be considered as consisting of three sections. The first, west of the Tetrapylon, was the oldest and runs through the residential district. The central portion that dates to the 3rd century was the most monumental in character, and the third, the last in chronological order and never completed, led to the Diocletian’s Camp, the area which was once the palace of the Queen Zenobia.

THINGS TO DO IN PALMYRA: See the long Roman Colonnade

How to “Park” Your Camel

While strolling around the Temple of Baal or along the Great Colonnade visitors were often approached by Syrians who tried to sell various frippery (at least that’s how it was in 2008 when I was there).


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Travel Writer (@danijelas_glimpses)

You could indeed buy tablecloths, scarves, and cheap jewelry, and people should have earned something (where else if not in a place full of tourists) but they were sometimes so annoying that you could easily go without this bothersome. It was not easy to say no either, I mean – everything was so cheap, and if you didn’t buy anything they would walk behind you until you did, or until you succeeded in hiding behind one of the columns.

But then again, the people who used to earn a few coins in Palmyra did add a specific charm to the place. Just imagine seeing a Syrian guy typically dressed in a long white jalabiya who has just “parked” his camel, right there, next to you. Or another one riding a small motorbike between the columns with the wind in his scarf.

You couldn’t have asked for a more striking scene!

Palmyra Syria
THINGS TO DO IN PALMYRA: A great ancient town

We were told not to be surprised if they came to us in our language. Not a surprise if it’s English, right? But what if it is Serbian?

And yes, locals did learn a few words in every language it seems, for “business purposes”. They would say “Good day” or “Not expensive”, and there were some who would shout after you: “A pretty lady!” This time, in Serbian.

Palmyra Syria: Five doors to the stage

Palmyra Syria
THINGS TO DO IN PALMYRA: Visit the famous Theater

Another stop not to be missed and one of the things to do in Palmyra was to visit the Theater. It was built in the mid-2nd century AD and there were only a dozen tiers of seating remaining in 2008, about a third of the original number. Facing it rose the majestic stage, 48 meters in length and 10.5 wide, representing the facade of the building. All that remained of it was the ground floor, but it originally rose for two more stories.

Riding along the Colonnade

Unlike most of the theaters with three doors, the Palmyra Theater had five where the central door is known as the Royal Arch. (I am not sure if this still stands or how damaged it is during the recent war.)

Citadel and the Necropolis

On the hill that was to be seen from the valley, the Arab stronghold stood known as the famous Citadel. View of the old Palmyra from its walls was just breathtaking.

Walls of the Citadel

The fort used to be governed by the Emir Fakhr ad-Din from Lebanon, from the end of the 16th to the mid-17th century who was a serious opponent to the Ottoman Empire and its domination. According to the pottery pieces and other finds that date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, it seems that the fortress itself was much older. There were initially seven towers, and it was easily reachable by the road leading across the bridge.

Those persistent merchants were here as well asking for baksheesh to pose for a photo.

Palmyra Syria
THINGS TO DO IN PALMYRA: Enjoy the view from the Citadel

Nevertheless, they did put some effort into it and sometimes brought an interesting traditional instrument or just posed with such “nonchalance” that you couldn’t seem to stop taking photos. A few coins there sure came in handy.

Preparing for tourists

Right next to the remains of the ancient Palmyra, there was the Necropolis, tombs where the whole families of this town were buried. With its 150 sepulchers, this Necropolis was the largest in the entire Greek and Roman world and comprised both individual and collective tombs.

Here, it was possible to see the beautifully preserved sarcophagus of the man interred with his wife and children at the deepest part of the funerary chamber, while his descendants were buried along the sides of the room in funerary urns each closed with the bust of the deceased. One such was known under the name of the Tomb of the Three Brothers.

THINGS TO DO IN PALMYRA: See the largest necropolis

They say that there was no place to spend a night in Palmyra in the past years, so tourists had to travel for hours to reach the ancient city, go around and visit, and then continue the journey to Damascus or south of Syria to reach accommodation.

The ceiling of the Tomb of Three Brothers

When I was there, however, there was an authentic hotel in this small town with only a few streets, shops, and a museum. It had to be booked in advance for a sleepover, surrounded by the atmosphere of the old town and the fresh desert air, which quickly cooled down our rooms at night.

Café in the desert

Once we decided it was time to part from this amazing ancient town and continue our journey (through the desert where all we could see was endless sand and a range of dappled mountains), we were more than surprised to take a break. In the middle of the desert next to the road, there was a genuine café!

Landscape after leaving Palmyra

Not very far from Palmyra (at about 150 kilometers from the Iraqi border), there was this so-called Baghdad Café.

Authentic ambience in Bedouin cafe

The story goes that it was opened by Bedouins who decided to “change career” and turned to tourism. It seemed that they lived here too making us coffee. Inside – old carpets, a stove… And some kind of a waiter-owner-Bedouin-guy who showed us around the souvenir shop and waved when we parted.

And now, after all this, I dare you to forget, ever, that you visited Syria!


The full Homage to Syria SERIES


Related posts:

44 responses

  1. You nailed it by “how to park your camel” haha ????

    That is a unique post. Not so touristy, and I love it. Big up for the homage.. aaand i am just so sad i didnt visit syria before it got devastated ????

    1. Thanks, Monika, so glad you like the series! And yes, you’ve seen the picture, it sure is one genuine parking spot for one genuine camel rider. 😉

  2. Thank you for re-posting this beautiful post! I wish for peace and restoration in Syria as well, it is absolutely heartbreaking and horrifying the pain they have gone through.

  3. Such beautiful pictures. It’s so heartbreaking to see Syria being destroyed by war. I, too, pray for peace.

  4. Looks like a lovely trip! I’m glad you got to go before the (most recent) war. I got to go to Egypt in 2005 and it was much different then as well-
    I do hate the aggressive street vendors also, and in fact it’s a big reason I enjoy visiting cities or big tourist destinations in these types of countries but at the same time it’s part of the package and they are just doing their best to make a living!

    Great photos!

  5. The Theater is amazing! I mean, all of these historic sites are pretty awesome! I have really enjoyed this series and look forward to reading more. I feel like i have learned a lot about Syria in the past month.

  6. What a great post. I am so glad you were able to visit before the war. I feel like because of the atrocities there, we forget abou the rich culture and history of these people. Thanks for showing me another side of Syria.

  7. Mankind hasn’t changed through the centuries: wars, plundering and devastation. It’s a pity that the coming generations won’t be able to see Palmyra in its glory. I enjoyed reading your article and I was thinking, how unfortunate I am not be able to go there before the war…

  8. Thank you for sharing this post and shedding some light on what is now a devastating situation. It’s sad most will not know Syria the way it was before the war broke out. Your series will offer some insight.

  9. Thanks for sharing your experiences in Syria, what a great way to pay homage to that unfortunate country.

    And I’m happy to have found you blog. Belgrade is one of my favorite cities, perhaps you even know some of my friends who work at Insajder… Živeli!

  10. This is a striking beautiful area that the whole world truly needs to see. We need to learn about our past and where we came from and how we grew in technology along the way. Thank you for sharing this! I hope the fighting stops soon.

  11. Looks like someone might have become wise to the fact that people had no where to stay and finally cashed in on the opportunity. You could probably make some good money with a cafe and hotel there.

  12. After spending a fortnight touring Lebanon in 2010, I had really wanted to visit Syria in the following years but didn’t manage to organise a trip before war broke out. My heart breaks for the Syrian people, the horrors they are going through, not to mention the destruction of property, including sites of huge cultural and significance for the nation, and the world. I can’t imagine how soul-destroying it must be for those living through this. I hope that peace comes soon for Syria, and it’s high on my list to visit and show support as soon as it becomes safe.

  13. Fascinating! I’d never even heard of Palmyra before (except for the small town by that name in New York). I do hope this town is still available for people to explore and appreciate. What a treasure of history and architecture!

  14. This place is so exotic! The Roman architectural details are stunning. Since I am a huge fan of ancient history and architecture, it would certainly bring this Palmyra to my travel list.

  15. What an absolutely stunning place! I think I need to add “park a camel” on my bucket list because it just sounds so cool. 🙂 It’s wonderful to see a different, more positive side to Syria than what we’re constantly bombarded with in the media–I certainly hope that this beautiful country finds peace in the very near future.

  16. Hi there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with
    us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely
    enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting
    this to my followers! Exceptional blog and wonderful design.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

If you need a freelance travel writer or you would like to see your country, city, flight, etc., presented on the blog, drop me an email. 

Find our more on Freelance Travel Writer page.

I am looking forward to working with you.

Danijela Ćirović



Great stories in one place - eBooks, digital brochures, and postcards.